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Omicron Covid variant has spread to more than 50 countries and 19 US states, CDC director says

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The omicron Covid-19 variant that has resulted in worldwide travel restrictions and new vaccine warrants since its discovery in southern Africa last month has now been found in 50 countries and 19 states in the United States, the United States said on Tuesday. director of the CDC, Rochelle Walensky.

“While we are still working to understand the seriousness of omicron as well as how it responds to treatments and vaccines, we anticipate that all of the same measures will at least, in part, provide some protection against omicron,” Walensky said during a White House press briefing Covid-19, reiterating his call to be vaccinated.

Jeff Zients, who heads the White House’s response efforts to Covid, said vaccinations had increased with around 12.5 million injections given over the past week, of which 7 million were booster shots.

“This is the highest weekly total number of shots since May,” he said. “So now we are vaccinating people in numbers that we haven’t seen since the spring.”

White House chief medical adviser Dr Anthony Fauci said scientists should have data by the middle of next week showing how resistant the current vaccines are to the new variant, which contains dozens. mutations that generally make it more contagious.

“We will be able to determine whether or not the antibodies induced by all the vaccines lose their potency with omicron,” Fauci said of studies with both the live virus and the “pseudo virus”. “. “In addition, we are conducting animal studies to assess immune protection as well as the effectiveness of antivirals. “

He said “real-world evidence” in epidemiological and clinical studies will definitely determine how transmissible and severe the virus is, as well as whether or not it can escape vaccines.

Fauci pointed to a graph that showed a seven-day moving average of confirmed cases of omicron per 1 million people in South Africa, noting that it was now the dominant variant circulating in the country. “The almost vertical inflection of this clearly argues for a high degree of transmissibility,” he said.

He said it was too early to determine the severity of the disease. While data released this weekend in South Africa indicates that omicron could cause milder disease, he warned, “however, this may be influenced by the fact that many in this particular cohort are from young individuals “.

This story is breaking down. Check back for updates.

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